One thing about me is that I don’t like being watched; I much prefer being left to my own devices. Being constantly observed feels bizarre, frightening even. However, in my discussions with people over the past years, I have come to realise that everyone has different boundaries and expectations surrounding this topic. For some, their parents force them to share their location twenty-four-seven. For others, it’s their partners who ask the same. While I accept that this might simply be a safety measure, I still maintain that this imperative to share your location with others feels weird.
I won’t deny that I’m prone to checking the Snapchat map every so often, mainly out of curiosity. I like to see what my friends are up to, checking whether they’re in their rooms, working in the library, or lingering somewhere slightly suspect. However, I consult the map for my own entertainment: nothing more.
Growing up, my parents never asked me to turn on my phone location. Maybe this was because they trusted me. Usually, if I was going out, I would genuinely tell them the truth. In any case, they weren’t necessarily strict, so I knew they would rarely say no to my plans. However, if I ever thought my arrangements seemed slightly sketchy or uncertain, I would just lie. Plain and simple. Not once did they question me.
My friends tell me stories about their parents forcing them to download Life360 on their phones and constantly checking whether they were where they were supposed to be. To me, that’s a breach of privacy. It would drive me crazy if my parents rang me every two minutes to question my whereabouts. I understand exercising parental concern, but not obsessive, authoritarian control that risks harming relationships. There must be a healthier method of keeping your children safe.
On top of this, I have friends whose parents track their bank accounts and spending. Once again, I understand some people are less careful at budgeting and may need some guidance, but checking every single transaction that your child makes (a twenty-year-old adult, no less) surely alludes to a potential issue of attachment. I don’t spend unnecessarily and I don’t have anything to hide from my parents about my spending, but it would make me entirely uncomfortable to know that they were checking every single thing I paid for and following every single step I took across the city.
Furthermore, if you’re still tracking your child when they’re twenty or above, when will that surveillance end? Will you still be looking at their location when they’re married with three kids? Will you be eyeing up their bank records as they start to pay off their mortgage? Maybe this seems dramatic, or maybe I was just raised leniently by overly trusting parents, but this concept seems abhorrent to me.
That being said, I feel that location sharing in a relationship is slightly more understandable than in a family, especially at university. I understand that trust is something that must be built into a relationship, and location sharing may help with this process insofar as it proves that you have nothing to hide and may ease the mind of your partner. This simple act may offer a lot of comfort to some people.
However, in my humble opinion, if you are stressing to the point that you constantly must have your partner’s location once the relationship has surpassed the early stages, should you really be in that relationship in the first place? A higher level of trust may be required in order for your connection to really flourish. Nonetheless, if location tracking aids that growth, then who am I to judge? (I am judging slightly).
On the other hand, having your location on can be extremely useful, particularly in situations where someone may be drunk, lost, or potentially in danger. Locations on nights out can be life saving. Trying to find your friend after they’ve run off in a drunken state can be terrifying, yet the trusty find your friend app can really come in helpful. Without it, I’m sure many of us would have lost a friend or two on a night out.
Furthermore, using virtual maps, I can see what my friends at home are up to while I’m at university. While many of my friends work full-time jobs at home, it’s difficult to know when they’re free for a call because they occasionally pick up overtime and work irregular shifts. I feel more comfortable ringing them if their bitmoji is safely in their house and I know that I’m not interrupting them at work. For me, this is the extent to which snapmaps (and other alternatives) can be really helpful.
Yet, to circle back to my original point, constant surveillance still feels strange to me. Whether it be your parents, guardians, or your partner, they shouldn’t be checking your whereabouts so frequently that it raises questions about the level of trust in your relationships in the first place. My view is that both parental and romantic relationships require a foundation of mutual confidence, and an unspoken agreement that neither party is going to do anything so dangerous or inappropriate that it would affect the other. While location sharing can undeniably prove helpful in certain situations, they must be used with caution and not in the name of an unhealthy obsession.